There are only a few nations that can say their national dish has become an international phenomenon and one of those is Italy having two popular dishes which are pasta, and of course, pizza. Pizza is one of the most popular dishes in the world that’s why many claims to have created the world’s first real pizza. But have you ever wondered where and how pizza began? If you’re also curious, then read on because we’re going to give you a slice of its history.
Origins of Pizza
The word “pizza” is thought to have come from “pinsa”, a Latin word that means flatbread. However, there is much debate about the origin of the word as well. The word pizza was first documented in Gaeta in 997 AD and consecutively in different parts of Central and Southern Italy.
According to a legend, Roman soldiers gained a taste for Jewish Matzoth while they were stationed in Roman-occupied Palestine and they have developed a similar food after returning home. But based on recent archaeological discovery, a preserved Bronze Age pizza was found in the Veneto region.
Around 600 BC, Naples was founded as a Greek settlement. And during the 1700s and early 1800s, it was a thriving waterfront city. Being an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its troops of working poor. Unlike the rich people, Neapolitans during those times required inexpensive food that they could consume quickly. And pizza, which was a flatbread with various toppings sold by street vendors back in those times met their needs. These early pizzas featured the tasty garnishes we still love today such as cheese, garlic, tomatoes, and anchovies.
In 1861, Italy unified and in 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples. Based on legend, they became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine that’s why they asked for an assortment of pizzas from Pizzeria Brandi, the successor of Da Pietro pizzeria that was founded in 1760.
Queen Margherita enjoyed the variety called pizza mozzarella, which was a pie topped with soft white cheese, green basil, and red tomatoes. From then on, that combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.
Even though the Queen gave her royal blessing to the pizza, pizza did not become well known outside of Naples until the late 1800s when Italians began to migrate to America carrying their tastes and recipes with them.
Introduction of Pizza in the United States
The journey of pizza in the United States began with Italian immigrants in New York. In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi opened the first pizzeria which is now known as Little Italy. He began the entire lineage of NYC pizza made in the classic New York style using a coal oven and thin crust.
There were pizza makers who eventually trained at Lombardi’s and they began to spread across the city and they opened up second-generation facilities which still operates today such as Totonno’s in Brooklyn that opened in 1924, John’s of Bleecker Street that opened in 1929, and many more. Aside from that, pizza also flourished in other cities and it began to expand beyond its Italian roots.
The pizza business boomed by the 1930s and Italian-Americans opened up pizzerias across Manhattan, New Jersey, and Boston. Before the 1940s, the pizza was limited mostly to Italian immigrants and their descendants. It had its international breakthrough after the Second World War. In 1943, a Texan living in Chicago named Ike Sewell invented a deep-dish style pizza at Pizzeria Uno. And just like the pizza made by Lombardi in New York, the new style he created spread across the city of Chicago.
California, during the late 20th century, invented its own style and it could be viewed as a return to the pre-modern pizza styles of 16th century Naples. Its toppings varied and it included ingredients such as truffles, artichokes, goat cheese, and other vegetables for a healthier California style. This style was invented by Ed LaDou, who was eventually hired by Wolfgang Puck to create pizzas for his new restaurant named Spago. But in the mid-80s, LaDou left Spago and he became a minority partner in California Pizza Kitchen where he created the famous barbecue chicken pizza.
The real propagation of pizzas occurred with the arrival of the pizza chain. In 1958, Pizza Hut opened, followed by Little Caesar in 1959 and Domino’s in 1960. In 1989, Papa John’s opened and each of these restaurants had the idea that they would sell pizzas to the masses.
Introduction of Pizza in Canada
In the late 1950s, pizza was first introduced in Canada with the first pizza ovens entering the country. It became a popular food throughout the 1960s and there were lots of pizzerias and restaurants that opened across the country. Many pizza restaurants in Canada also serve other popular Italian dishes like pasta, soup, salad, and sandwiches. Then, fast-food pizza chains began to provide side options for customers in addition to ordering pizza such as fries and chicken wings.
In the 1960s, Pizza Pops were introduced, which are Canadian calzone-type of snack. During those times, pizza chains can be found across Canada such as in neighborhood plazas, schools, and shopping centers. These chains mostly offer a sit-and-dine facility for customers.
Canadian Pizza is the most distinct pizza in Canada. It usually includes tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, bacon, and mushrooms. There are other variables for this type of pizza but what makes it distinctly Canadian are bacon and mushrooms.
Pizza in Canada is served on different crust types including a traditional-style pan crust, a thin crust, multi-grain crust, whole-grain crust, and a gluten-free crust. There’s also a Pizza-ghetti in the province of Quebec which is a combination meal usually found in fast food or family restaurants. It is made of a pizza that is sliced in half and a small portion of spaghetti with a tomato-based sauce.
In 1962, a pizza topped with pineapple and ham, or the Hawaiian pizza was invented in Canada by Sam Panopoulis, a restaurateur at the Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario. Some of the most successful pizza brands in Canada are Boston Pizza, Pizza Pizza, and Vanelli’s.
Pizza gained popularity across Canada that’s why major American pizza chains such as Domino’s, Little Caesars, and Pizza Hut have expanded their locations in Canada as well.
Naples’ Neapolitan Pizzas Protection
On December 9, 2009, the European Union established a ruling to protect Naples’ Neapolitan pizzas. Based on the ruling, Neapolitan pizza was now part of Europe’s food heritage and all pizzerias aspiring to supply and make the real Neapolitan pizzas should comply to strict traditional standards when it comes to the ingredients and preparation and it must only include San Marzano tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese. With this protect status, producers can not only boast about their exclusivity, but they can also charge a premium for the pizza.
Pizza is indeed one of the most consumed meals in the world, most particularly in the United States.In fact, there are approximately 5 billion pizzas bought annually and 3 billion of which are in the United States alone. And today, pizza continues to enchant hungry consumers. There are new combinations of crust, toppings which are created daily and most of them are influenced by local cuisines and traditions.